Historic site of national importance Ōhaeawai opened

Published: 16 October, 2022

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  • Northland/Te Tai Tokerau

The restored battle site at Ōhaeawai, a historically important site in the context of the 1845-46 Northern Land Wars, has been officially opened after undergoing $1.79 million in government backed restorations.

Te Pakanga o Ōhaeawai – realising a dream


Duration: 3:06

[White text on black background: The Ōhaeawai Community Cultural Centre received a $1.7 million grant from Kānoa – Regional Economic Development and Investment Unit's Provincial Growth Fund to restore the site of the 1845 Battle of Ōhaeawai, including St Michael’s Anglican Church and Ōhaeawai Native School.]

Ambient music plays.

[Drone footage over a church and urupā]

[Text: Te Pakanga o Ōhaeawai – realising a dream]

[Mid-shot of Alistair Clarke, a Māori man]

Alistair: This is Ōhaeawai, the original Ōhaeawai. Ōhaeawai now is seven kilometres down the road, at the junction of state highway 12 and state highway 1. But Ōhaeawai is here.

[Drone shot of an old school in the middle of the countryside.]

Raima: So I came to this school as a student in 1960.

[Mid-shot of Raima Redden, a Māori woman]

Raima: And my whānau home is just one paddock away. All of this whenua come from my great grandfather, who was Heta Te Haara. And he was a rangatira for our hapū. For me it's, about realising my parents, and my grandparents and my great grandparents' dreams.

[Raima’s interview is overlapped with various shots of the Ōhaeawai countryside, including the old school, church and urupā]

Raima: You know, Mum used to always say to us, "gosh, I wish we could do our church up" and you know, and "oh, and our poor old school", and Mum used to look up there at the farm because that farm belonged to you know, her grandfather. She says, "Jeez, I wish I wish I had a tractor," you know, don't ask me what she was going to do with the tractor. But you know, this was her dream for everything to be done. You know, and it wasn't done then because they never had access to funding, like there is nowadays. So you know, to be given that opportunity to do up the whole three sites is massive.

[Mid-shot of Alistair Clarke]

Alistair: What's happening, I think, has always been aspirational. Hard to be aspirational, though, when you know that you're trying to do it off the smell of an oily rag.

[Shots of Alistair, Raima and Chanel entering the renovated school building and looking around at the interiors]

Alistair: The funding side of it has been huge, because we have been able to realise, you know, some of those dreams of what it could be.

[Mid-shot of Raima]

Raima: Hand on my heart, I don't think in my lifetime, this would have got done without the contribution from the government, we wouldn't have got it done. We would have been selling raffles from here to Africa.

[More footage of people examining the renovated school building]

Alistair: This is the start you know, we don't see it as the end that's for sure.

[Mid-shot of Alistair]

Alistair: You know, we want to keep growing it, keep evolving it. And if eventually, there's an opportunity for it to provide paid work for whānau, all the better.

[Drone footage overlooking the Ōhaeawai countryside. Logos appear: Kānoa Regional Economic Development and Investment Unit, Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, and New Zealand Government]

Alistair: But I think the intention more was for us to tell our story.

Music ends.

[Fade to black]

Te Pakanga o Ōhaeawai, located near Kaikohe in Te Tai Tokerau Northland, is the second project completed from a $20 million Historic Sites of National Importance allocation from the Provincial Growth Fund, which is administered by Kānoa – Regional Economic Development and Investment Unit. Ōhaeawai Community Cultural Centre received the funding to restore the site of the Battle of Ōhaeawai which includes St Michael’s Church, the Te Haara farm and the old Ōhaeawai Native School.

Regional Economic Development Minister Stuart Nash was in attendance alongside MP for Te Tai Tokerau and Minister for Māori Crown Relations Kelvin Davis, where they participated in the pōwhiri and the hikoi across the grounds. A rededication of St Michael’s Church was held by the Rt Rev’d Te Kitohi Pikaahu.

Minister Nash said that preserving historic sites of national importance is an important part of telling our nation’s past.

The Battle of Ōhaeawai was fought between British forces and local Māori during the Northern Land Wars in 1845. Colonel Despard led forces for the Crown, and the defence of the pā and defeat of the British was led by Ngāti Hine chiefs Te Ruki Kawiti and Pene Taui.

The battle was a notable victory of Māori engineering and innovation through the design of the palisades and trenches that colonial troops were unable to breach. The trench style fortifications were taken as a model for fortifications at Te Ruapekapeka Pā about 45 kilometres south and another site of significance in the battle of Northland Land Wars. The pā at Ōhaeawai is tapu to Ngāti Rangi and was added to the New Zealand Heritage List as a wahi tapu area in 2018. It also incorporates the urupā (burial site) in the middle of what stands St Michael's Church. St Michael’s Church was built as a symbol of peace and a tribute to the Pākehā who had died in battle on the site in 1845.

Ngapuhi Chief Heta Te Haara subsequently obtained permission to reinter the British soldiers killed at Ōhaeawai in the churchyard, with a burial service conducted in 1872.

Native or Māori schools were set up across New Zealand from 1867. Ōhaeawai Native School opened in 1885 and closed as a school in 1980/81 although has remained in use as a community centre.

Other historically significant sites that have received funding from the Provincial Growth Fund include Ruapekapeka Pā also in Te Tai Tokerau, Rangiriri Pā in northern Waikato, and Parihaka in Taranaki.